Shocking images show impact of collision caused by drunk woman driving wrong way on M5
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Video and images of the impact of a collision caused by a drunk woman who drove the wrong way along the motorway have been released by officers as they warn of the 'stark' dangers of drink and drug driving.
It is hoped that the pictures, alongside the harrowing account of the victim, whose life has been badly affected by the crash, will act as a sobering warning ahead of the summer months.
The incident happened just after midnight on Wednesday 5 October last year, shortly after police received a number of 999 calls from people reporting a Mini Cooper driving the wrong way on the southbound carriageway of the M5, north of junction 9 at Tewkesbury.
A short time later responding officers came upon the scene of a head-on collision near Strensham Services involving the Mini and a Vauxhall Astra. Two lorries were also struck and damaged in the incident, which left debris strewn across the carriageway.
The driver of the Astra, 30-year-old Carly Pope, a personal trainer from Bristol, suffered a broken arm in two places, whiplash, cuts, bruises and soft tissue damage while a male passenger suffered whiplash and bruising.
The drunk driver in the Mini, 65-year-old Dorothy Denny, from Bredon, sustained broken ribs. At the scene she provided a roadside screening breath test that was over three times the legal limit.
In interview, Denny said she had received some sad news that had caused her to end a long period of abstinence.
She admitted consuming alcohol before driving to the BP garage on Ashchurch Road in Tewkesbury to buy milk and more alcohol.
After leaving the forecourt she said she turned left instead of right for her home address, then went around the roundabout in order to get back off at Ashchurch Road.
But instead of getting off at that exit she accidentally took the prior left-hand turn, the M5 southbound off-slip, and then travelled up the motorway on the southbound side.
Believing herself to be in lane one but actually in lane three, she carried on driving against the flow of traffic for over two miles before colliding head on with the Astra and striking both HGVs.
In interview, Denny said she had been in a distressed and confused state and when she realised what she had done couldn't find a gap to get across to the hard shoulder.
Footage of the crash was shown to the judge, Recorder Neil Millard, at the sentencing hearing at Gloucester Crown Court in May.
Carly Pope said: “My arm was so badly snapped that I had to be given local anaesthetic in order for two grown men to pull and realign the bones before putting me in a plaster cast.
“The rest of my superficial injuries healed in good time but my arm was excruciating for weeks while it was in the cast and it is still extremely painful. I was told that one of the bones healed longer than before the accident and one healed shorter, which means I will be permanently visibly disfigured and may never regain full range of motion (at least not without pain) ever again. I still have pain in my neck and shoulder from the jolt of the collision and all three areas are so stiff and uncomfortable, especially in the mornings.
“Following the incident I have had breakdowns as a passenger on the motorway at night, I have vivid nightmares when I do manage to sleep and I don't feel as though I will ever be as confident a driver as I once was.
"I am now so detached from my job due to my reduced ability and confidence to teach, that I have been signed off by my doctor three times since the accident. It is now at the point where I may have to change my career entirely and that breaks my heart.
“I am still having regular physio therapy and working on getting some strength back into my arm. However everything I do with it is painful, even typing is extremely difficult as I cannot pronate my wrist even half the amount of a normal person. I still may have to have surgery if I do not get the mobility back as I need both of my arms to be fully functional, my life literally depends on it.
“I am a personal trainer, that is my job and I made it my job because the gym is the thing I love most in the world and what I am best at. So having this injury means not only that I have been unable to work since, but unable to participate in my primary hobby either. I say hobby but I am actually also a competitive athlete, having come first place in both a powerlifting competition and also a calisthenics competition last year. I had more competitions lined up which I had a good chance of winning too, but that was taken away from me.
“Before the accident I have suffered with my mental health and the gym is what I used to cope with the things that go on in my head, so having that taken away from me meant that my mental health rapidly declined. I have been unable eat or sleep or maintain a normal routine at all because my entire life was destroyed by this accident. I have been referred to therapy for my suicidal thoughts as a result of feeling as though I had nothing to live for, I have been placed on anti-depressants and am also on a waiting list for PTSD specific therapy.
“I am also severely struggling with the prospect now of having regressed so much in my overall physical fitness that it is going to take me months or even years to get back to the standard I was at, if at all.”
Officer in the case, PC Stuart Dudfield, said: "When you see the collision and how close the drink driver came to then crashing head on with a lorry, it is a miracle no one died in this.
"No one expects to see a car heading straight at them on the motorway and it must have been a terrifying few moments for Carly, her passenger and the other motorists who were forced to take evasive action.
"The injuries experienced by Carly were severe, on top of the lasting trauma she has described.
"In all my years' experience in roads policing this has got to be one of the starkest examples of what can happen when you drink drive or drive whilst impaired.
“The defendant was compliant during my investigation and very remorseful, however that does not excuse the fact that she has made a conscious decision to drive her vehicle whilst intoxicated.
"Anyone who thinks they can still drive under the influence of drink or drugs should look at the images, read Carly’s words and think about the implications."
On Friday 19 May, Denny was sentenced at Gloucester Crown Court for causing serious injury by dangerous driving and drink driving. She was given a 20-month suspended prison sentence, £10,000 fine and banned from driving for ten years.